Keeping “SMART” Lenten Resolutions, Even After Easter

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By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

Whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s time to think of goals you’ve set out to improve your life, whether it’s for a New Year’s Resolution, the beginning of Lent, “Holy Week,” or any other time in the year (perhaps a birthday). Is there a way to improve upon the process, and make meaningful change? You can, if you play it “S.M.A.R.T.”

In a YouGov poll taken earlier this decade, more than seven in ten Americans say they will celebrate Easter. But only 16% admit to taking part in the Lenten tradition. In addition to fasting, an important component of these 40 days is making Lenten Resolutions.

The same YouGov poll revealed the top five things Americans are giving up for Lent, ranging from desserts or sweets, soda, fast food or dining out, alcohol, gossiping, followed by non-essential shopping, social media and watching TV or streaming it, caffeine and video games.

By the same token, watching TV or streaming it, caffeine, desserts and sweets, and social media were rated the hardest things to give up, according to Americans in that YouGov poll.

In the past, fasting was a key component of the Christian celebration of Lent, since the time of Irenaus of Lyon, according to Christianity Today. Instead of 40 days, there would be a few days of self-examination and penance. Fasting expanded from around the year 325 to 800, only to slowly become relaxed, where fish would replace going meat-free, and then fasting only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Growing up going to Catholic school, Fish Fridays were a regular occurrence for me.

But what if we’re looking at doing more than giving up a simple pleasure, and maybe generate some meaningful change, or even taking on a productive challenge?

At LaGrange College, we’re having our first-year students work on improving their goals, using a method known as “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. And we’re not the only college doing something like this. “We’re using ‘SMART’ goals for our leadership team,” my oldest kid who is in college told me.

The “S” in SMART goals stands for “specific.” You’ve got to be able to make the goal tangible; one too abstract is harder to visualize and achieve. The “M” is SMART represents “measurable.” That way, you can check your progress, and be able to determine if you’re on the right path or not.

The “A” in SMART is for “attainable.” You don’t want to set out an impossible task, which could get you discouraged if you come up short, and perhaps be reluctant to take on other goals.

The “R” in SMART spells out “relevant.” Is the goal related to what you need to do, or wish to do? Ask yourself why you’re taking on this goal. Why are giving some particular thing? Why are you taking on a particular challenge, or choosing a certain path to service, if that’s what you opt for? Finally, the “T” in SMART is used to reflect something “time-bound.” You should consider how long the goal will take, or when to take stock to see if you are showing progress or not.

Whether it’s giving up a destructive habit, looking to improve oneself, provide greater service to the community, or something else, these SMART Goals could provide the path, not just during Lent, but for the rest of the year, and perhaps even longer.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His Twitter account is JohnTures2.